Received February 12, 2012; Revision received February 22, 2012
The classical approach of evolutionism is based on the concept of the survival of the fittest individuals. More and more data indicate that natural selection often acts with supra-individual mechanisms favoring genes and actions harmful for the individual. The most striking type of cases is when an individual kills himself or his offspring by actions genetically determined or favored. The neologism “phenoptosis” describes these events and implicates that they are not evolutionary anomalies but physiological phenomena determined by natural selection. The most important and familiar kind of phenoptosis, the “slow phenoptosis” or aging, which is currently considered an inevitable and scarcely changeable event, is transformed by this different interpretation into a function, in principle modifiable and manageable. Perhaps, the neologism “phenoptosis” will represent, together with the term supra-individual selection, the mark of a vital enrichment of evolutionism, conceived in broader terms of which the individual selection is just a particular case, and will be referred to as the brand and the standard for the start of a new era.
KEY WORDS: phenoptosis, slow phenoptosis, apoptosis, aging, proapoptosis, supra-individual selection